Are you aware of the danger that lurks in your business’s copier? These days, copiers and printers come with internal hard drives, and these are often forgotten when it comes to ensuring data security. Basically, every document copied and printed is stored on the hard drive, which is a major problem for businesses which regularly print and copy highly sensitive data.

Think about a bank; every time you pop in to do a transaction, like a cash transfer, or pick up a new card, your ID is photocopied. Every document you have to sign is photocopied. Your account details and personal information are stored, along with those of every other client, and they are easy pickings for identity thieves.

Think about police stations, which copy and print highly sensitive data regarding criminal cases. Think of the damage that data can do if it ends up in the wrong hands, or even in the public domain.


What can you do to protect yourself?

There’s not a lot you can do about the data stored in your bank’s copier (beyond asking them about their security measures and suggesting that they look into solutions), but you can protect your business’s data.

  • You can purchase data security kits, which encrypt data stored on the hard drive, as well as data stored on dynamic random-access memory (DRAM). Data is cleared and overwritten regularly.
  • Degaussing is recommended if you have no intention of using the drive again, or of selling it (VSSP). This entails running data through a magnetic field, which is supposed to completely remove all traces of data.
  • You can use overwrite software, which doesn’t render the drive inoperable. Look for software that provides a report on the erasure process (whether it was successfully completed or whether errors occurred).
  • Physically destroying the drive by disintegration, incineration, melting, and chemical treatment. However, this is not always entirely successful as skilled data recovery experts can often recover data from severely physically damaged drives.
  • Don’t forget that multifunction devices are plugged into your network, which makes them vulnerable to viruses, worms and malware. So, you need to include them in your network security measures (Larry Kovnat (

The danger of hard drives in copiers and printers was first reported by CBS in 2010. Since then, not a lot more people have become aware of the risk. The result is that a lot of confidential data still finds ends up where it shouldn’t when old devices are sold or recycled. It’s not just up to manufacturers to ensure that their customers are aware of the danger that lurks in their machines (although they have a very important role to play). Consumers should also properly research equipment before they sign any cheques, so that they know exactly what they are getting.

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